Targeting starts off as a fun game to play at home, but quickly becomes a useful tool to use in public.
The hand signal/target. Two fingers presented 6-8 inches in front for your puppy's nose. Use a strong, confident hand signal so your puppy wont miss it. Wait for your puppy to reach out and touch the back of your fingers with their nose, then Click, or “Yes” and reward with a small treat.
This cue has a limited time offer. If your puppy misses it, or ignores the hand signal, resist the urge to bring your hand closer to them, or wave it in front of their face. Simply pause for a few breaths, then remove your hand. Opportunity missed. Wait a few seconds, then try again.
Good with a stationary target? Let start moving it! Present the hand-target in the same way but as your puppy starts to move towards it, move a couple of feet, then allow them to make contact.
Touch and targeting skills are great for getting your puppy onto the weighing scales at the veterinary clinic, into a vehicle, or as a fun focus game around distractions.
Show it. Lure your puppy into a sit by showing them a treat, and gently moving that treat backwards and up (over their head and towards their tail). Keep the treat lure close to their nose at first, if you move your hand up too quickly or too high-up they may give up and lose interest.
Pay it. As soon as your pup’s bum hit the ground, Click and reward it.
Increase it. Remember the 3x Ds? Work on increasing the Duration of their Sit, from 5-15 seconds, then practice in different low distracting environments. Have fun with this, and remember to set your puppy up for success. If they make a mistake, just reset and try again - and maybe make it a little easier.
The Release Word! As mentioned in class, this is one of the most important skills I can share with you. It helps to build confidence, patience and frustration control in young puppies, and is often over looked once a puppy graduates. We will be practicing it lots.
I like to use the release word “Okay” after I have asked my puppy to sit, letting them know that the exercise is over and they are free to move.
Once your puppy is confidently offering a Sit on cue, you no longer need to use the Clicker, but can instead graduate to using “Okay” instead.
Ask your puppy to Sit, using either a hand signal, verbal cue, or both.
Once they have held the sit, release them by saying “Okay”, then take a small step away from them before offering a reward.
Say the word. Step away. Reward...it's that simple.
Look At Me...Not The Cookie!
With your pup positioned in front of you, hold a cookie out to the side at arms length (forming a triangle between, you, your puppy, and the cookie).
Without prompting wait for you puppy to make eye contact, then Click or "Yes" and offer a treat.
I like to bring both of my hand back back to my centre before offering the treat, this way you are removing the temptation of looking back toward the bait-cookie, and your hand is already in the reset position to start again.
When your puppy is doing well, try moving your hand a little closer. If your puppy jumps up to mouth your hand, slowly move your hand a little higher/out of range.
Grass vs Sidewalk...pick your surface.
I use two distinct styles of walking when I'm out with my dog.
#1. Paws on Grass
If Jasper's paws are touching nature, be that dirt, grass, sand, or water, I will give him all the space and time he needs, and will generally let him pick the direction if it's safe to do so. This will give him the chance to pee, check-out the new smells...and normally roll in something vile!
#2. Pounding the pavement
We are going places...and have little time to stop! I want to pick my space on the sidewalk wisely. If I'm walking too close to a building, flower bed, or patch of grass my dog may want to stop, so I try and position myself, and my dog, in the least distracting part of the sidewalk as possible. There's nothing wrong with occasionally stopping, 'cos face it, walking from A to B can be pretty boring, but this style of walk is aimed to help you get places, with as few distractions as possible.
Starting The Walk
Start the walk as you mean to continue. This isn't always as easy as it sounds, especially if it's wet outside.
I like to grab a small handful of treats, and click and reward for eye contact and calm behaviour before opening the front door, then continuing this game as I start down the street, clicking and rewarding my puppy for staying close to me.
At first a small handful of treat will barely last 3 minutes, but with a little practice you will quickly be able to stretch them out a lot longer. Instead of clicking every 3-5 steps, you will progress to rewarding for a certain number of "car lengths" or "lamp posts", which quickly becomes half a block etc.
Thirty seconds of nice walking, quickly becomes three to five minutes – depending on the level of distractions.
If at any point your pup starts to pull in front, stop, and guide them back into that "Sweet Spot" that we learnt last week.